ADF joins lawsuit against Rhode Island governor’s power grab

Gov. Chafee sidestepped General Assembly to create pro-abortion health exchange for ObamaCare

By Dave Andrusko

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Alliance Defense Fund has joined a lawsuit against Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee for overstepping his authority by creating a health exchange for ObamaCare that funds elective abortions, contrary to state law. The ADF attorneys are co-counsel together with lead attorney Joe Larisa in representing Rhode Island Right to Life and 38 state legislators. The case is Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee v. Chafee,

The amended complaint filed in the lawsuit Tuesday explains that the power to create the exchange, a set of state approved and regulated insurance plans eligible for federal subsidies, lies solely with the people through their representatives in the General Assembly.

When concerns about taxpayer-subsidized abortion coverage prevented the General Assembly from reaching agreement on an exchange last year, Chafee unilaterally created a Health Benefits Exchange without including the traditional restrictions on abortion subsidies. Chaffee’s September 19, 2011, executive order flies in the face of the will of the General Assembly and its members, which rejected legislation creating the Exchange last June.

That Chafee would chaff at limitations on abortion is hardly surprising. He is on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

If that didn’t give NARAL enough access and leverage, Chafee’s top aide, Richard Licht, is chairman of NARAL’s board!

“It is a fundamental principle of both American and Rhode Island constitutional law that the legislature enacts the laws and the governor executes them,” Larisa explained. “Until this order, no other governor has attempted to create a health care exchange without the legislature’s approval. Gov. Chafee is brazenly attempting to evade the state constitution and members of the General Assembly, each of whom has the constitutional right to vote on how any exchange should be created, managed, and limited.”

What made Chafee’s power play even more egregious is that Rhode Island subsequently received $58 million in new federal funds to help build the infrastructure for its health insurance benefits exchange from the Department of Health and Human Services, headed by pro-abortion Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

In April, by a vote of 31-6, the state Senate passed a Health Benefits Exchange Act (a key component of ObamaCare) which Chafee opposed. Why? Because it had language that, consistent with longstanding state and federal law, prohibited government funds from being used to purchase health insurance plans that provide coverage for elective abortion. ObamaCare expressly permits any state to pass laws prohibiting coverage or funding for abortion, or various procedural requirements and limitations on abortions.

Subsequently, the Rhode Island House of Representatives not only failed to act on the Senate bill but also failed even to act on its own version of the bill, which did not contain any abortion-funding prohibition.

“The majority of state lawmakers want to maintain longstanding prohibitions against public funding for elective abortion even as they seek to create this new government entity,” said RIRTL Executive Director Barth E. Bracy. “Thirty-eight members of the  General Assembly have joined our legal challenge, demanding their constitutional right to vote on the creation and powers of the health benefits exchange. Together, we stand against Governor Chafee’s attempt to force Rhode Islanders to subsidize other people’s abortions under the guise of health care reform.”

Added ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox, “No one should force Rhode Islanders to subsidize other people’s abortions under the guise of health care reform, especially through illegitimate, extra-constitutional methods.”

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